Arizona vehicle theft task force dismantles Claypool chop shop; arrests suspect

Members of the Arizona Department of Public Safety Border Strike Force recovered stolen classic cars and dismantled a chop shop in Claypool on Thursday, Jan. 24. Photo by Carol Broeder.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Border Strike Force Vehicle Theft Task Force (VTTF) arrested James M. Powell, 49, of Claypool, Thursday, Jan. 24 on suspicion of auto theft-related felonies.

On a tip from a concerned citizen, the task force investigation led to a search warrant, resulting in Powell’s arrest and the recovery of two stolen classic cars as well as the dismantling of a chop shop, said DPS Media Relations Specialist Bart Graves, in Phoenix.

Powell was booked into Gila County Jail on one count each of theft of means of transportation and owning/operating a chop shop.

VTTF detectives recovered two stolen classic cars — a 1954 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 and a 1970 Oldsmobile 442, Graves said.

Detectives also seized a green Polaris 500cc all-terrain vehicle (ATV) because its vehicle identification numbers (VIN) were defaced and removed, he said in a Jan. 28 press release.

The investigation continues.

VTTF Commander Captain P. Etnire said the task force sees stolen vehicles being used to commit other serious crimes.

Crediting the concerned citizen’s tip for the success of the search warrant, Etnire said, “We encourage Arizonans to report suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency or to the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC).”

The task force is made up of city, county and state law enforcement agencies, joined in “a concerted effort to identify, apprehend and prosecute individuals and criminal organizations” profiting from motor vehicles theft and related crimes, Graves said.

The VTTF performs “a vital mission on behalf of the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority (AATA) to reduce vehicle theft in Arizona by deterring criminal activity through effective and proactive enforcement, prosecution and public awareness programs,” he said in the Jan. 28 press release.

The ultimate goal in creating the task force is to deter, disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations that breach the border in their quest to set up business in the state, Graves said.

Specific units VTTF units include the Canine District, the Southern Investigations District and the Vehicle Theft District, he said.


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